Brexit statement by Dr. Matthias Hammer, founder and executive director of Biosphere Expeditions

Brexit

On 24 June 2016, a few hours after the UK’s Brexit vote, our executive director issued this statement:

It is with great shock and sorrow that I notice the UK’s Brexit vote this morning. Following the campaigns, I was saddened not only by the overall tone of the debate, but also by the fear mongering and the ‘them and us’ attitude evident on both sides. Although the weight of economic opinion was in favour of staying inside the EU, I could see that there were valid arguments on both sides. Ultimately the outcome and repercussions of Brexit are unknowable and only time will tell. For me it therefore came down to a choice of visions of the kind of world we want to live in. Do we want to exist in a world where nationalistic interest, attitudes of ‘them and us’, suspicion and fear of the unknown – be it people or challenges – rule the day? History has told us where this leads. Or do we want to live in a world of collaboration, common visions, shared values, working towards a greater good, compassion and kindness? For me the answer was always obvious. The EU may be an undemocratic behemoth in serious need of reform, but it has given us freedom, peace and prosperity on a continent that until very recently had been at war with itself for millennia. Yet today it is unthinkable for my children to return to a trench, just because we disagree with the French or Italians or any other European partner for that matter. For that alone, the EU deserves the highest praise (and its Nobel peace prize) and I would be prepared to give up the Deutschmark or Pound any day of the week, over and over again, for that achievement.

As a German, having grown up in a federally organised state, for me there has never been a contradiction between being Franconian, Bavarian, German and European, all at the same time. It is not the either/or questions that it seems to be for the British (or rather English and Welsh). A feeling of belonging exists on multiple levels. You can support Arsenal as well as England, Bayern Munich as well as Germany. I am very sad to see that in England and Wales it was indeed either/or, rather than both.

And if it had not been for the EU, Biosphere Expeditions would probably not exist today. After school in Germany, I came to the UK (Scotland and England) to enjoy a first-class university education in biology, something I will always be grateful to Britain for, but something that would not have happened, had it not been for (very unbureaucratic) financial support from the EU, which paid my university fees by default, simply because I was an EU citizen studying in another EU country. I was free to study, move, live, marry, have children, start an NGO and thrive anywhere on a continent of shared values and visions. I am disconsolate that the UK took a significant step away from this yesterday. But this is the decision. And nothing is as constant as change, and the root of all sorrow is the attempt to cling onto things in constant flux.

So, as far as Biosphere Expeditions is concerned, our very own exit plan is now to move operations to Ireland and/or Scotland (should the Scots indeed split from the UK and remain in the EU). We have already started this process.

I would like to assure our partners, supporters and friends that we are committed to our existing expeditions and partnerships and will work hard to keep disruption to a minimum. We will do the same for our participants and staff. Much will happen behind the scenes, but at the front end, changes should be relatively small and we will keep you fully informed about them over the next months and years, as Brexit sadly unfolds.

Regards

Dr. Matthias Hammer
Executive Director
Biosphere Expeditions

3 Replies to “Brexit statement by Dr. Matthias Hammer, founder and executive director of Biosphere Expeditions”

  1. Dear Dr Hammer, I am an Egyptian citizen, so I am not really entitled to say my opinion here since I am not part of Europe but let me tell you that I share your sentiments, especially as I apply them to the unity I would have loved to see in our Arab world. Until the 1922, the almost 12 million square km of the Arab world were considered one large empire, people roamed freely from a country to another, and usually were born in a certain country, then educated in another and then worked and died in a third country even though travelling at that time was understandably difficult. Most of the people in this huge area speak the same language and have the same religion but this never prevented the many conflicts. Add to this that you need a visa to go to certain countries, and sometimes it is very difficult. I need a visa to go the AUE and I am not sure if I can get it, and so I postponed going to the expedition there with your company just to avoid the hassle.
    Accepting is the key here. Humanity still needs some conflicts/ separations and we have to accept that regardless of what we have hoped for. The British people also seem to have had difficulties dealing with the bureaucracy of the EU, and of the latter I had my share of disappointment when I worked briefly with them. They are out of the EU but they will remain your friends, colleagues and more co-operation will keep coming forward of course regardless of the Brexit.

  2. I have read these messages with interest to see the panoply of emotions and concerns for those of us who worry about conservation and climate change. However unfortunately, in looking through them, there does seem to be some arrogance about our individual efforts to influence these ecological challenges. Your organization has not taken on the big question, which is what influence if any, will Brexit have on conservation and climate?
    I believe that the biggest cause of climate change is actually the (mostly) free ability of human beings to seek out the best (or at least pretty good!) and most interesting for themselves. That relatively easy travel, expectation to shower daily, to have strawberries in the middle of winter, is simply unnatural, but is regarded as right and just (especially if you are wealthy) today– all at the same time costing the world so much when performed en masse.
    Thus it is primarily through mass change in human actions towards more insular behavior – which Brexit is only a tiny step- which can actually change this long term outlook. Our individual efforts, championed through many NGOs, is heroic, but only that, heroic, and quite small compared to the huge collective desires of everybody else in the world. It is clear that my perspective slants towards a doomsday viewpoint. Do you seriously think that such organizations can make a difference in how other countries and peoples make a living, particularly in the timeframe that climate change is taking? In spite of that I should say that I would have voted ‘Remain’ if I were a Brit), I certainly agree with your perspective on how ~united effort is needed to deal with conservation~ etc.
    It has been argued that human’s intellectual abilities should be able to handle this massive problem. Perhaps there will be insights and inventions that enable extraordinarily cheap power and clean water. However if this is being developed, it is not happening quickly enough, and if there is anything that the market has taught us, whatever advance there is, human beings will figure out a way to consume beyond it, and we wind up simply kicking the can forward.

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful statement, Julie. Our view on flying is on http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/policies#emissions-policy-and-carbon-offsetting. As for the other BIG question, to be honest we do not have the answer. In a way we consider ourselves the ambulance that keeps the patient alive until the doctors (politicians) decide to save her. Our maxim is that we can only do what we can do within our sphere of influence. And our influence is small. So we battle on, trying to keep the patient alive.

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